We are creating our reality as we are going along – step by step. It all begins in our own mind. If our mind lacks quality, our steps lack quality. And if our steps are not rooted in quality, they will not lead to a fulfilling life. So today I will discuss the importance of 4 mental qualities that can flow into our steps.
The first one on this list is honesty. It’s on the first place because it is a very important state of mind when it comes to cultivating a spiritual practice. If you subscribe to honesty, you see no value in pretense. How you “appear” becomes unimportant and meaningless. If you have honesty and sincerity towards the practice, the practice will serve its purpose. But if we – on the other hand – want to appear spiritual, wise, caring, intelligent and the like, the practice can’t serve its purpose.
The practice aims at discovering truth and finding the end of suffering within ourselves. This requires a very honest mindset. We need to know where we are and what our strengths and weaknesses are. The goal is to transform our weak points into wholesome qualities, build inner power and learn how to let go of suffering when it arises. If you do it because you want to look wise on Instagram and Facebook, like a spiritual person with a spiritual life, you are missing the whole point by far.
It is honesty that allows us to see through our various levels of pretense. It helps us to correct our own errors and practice for the sake of freedom and truth. An honest person has no interest in following something just because “it feels good”. They would cultivate a quality because it leads towards a certain state that they want to manifest. And because there’s honesty, they would also see which behaviors are not serving the purpose of attaining their goal. They have the advantage of being able to correct their mistakes as they move along the path. That’s because they can see themselves in the light of honesty.
Without kindness, there’s no path either. If we don’t learn how to be kind and caring towards ourselves, we can’t relax deeply. Could you relax being locked into a room with a hardcore controlfreak together? I couldn’t! And yet I have a controlfreak locked into my own skull. He constantly tells me what to do, how to focus, how to feel and how to live. It can become unbearable at times. Most of us have this voice in our heads, constantly talking, planning, scheming.
Kindness is the rooted in acceptance. If we learn to accept ourselves, the body, the inner voice and our emotions, we can find a significant amount of peace here and now. Being at peace with yourself doesn’t mean that you give in to every single impulse. It means that you are able to acknowledge and see all these impulses as a facet of unsatisfactoriness and suffering. You can then proceed to give them space and let them be. You stop controlling elements of your experience.
That’s when you’ll start to relax deeper and deeper. After a great amount of good training you will able to greet your anger with a smile and release it. You can do this with all other states such as fear, sadness etc. In short, kindness allows you to be at peace with the way it is. It gives space to the conditioned dance of this world and yourself.
Mindfulness is a very powerful facet of the path. If there’s no mindfulness, there’s no spiritual path of any sort actually. Mindfulness points to the ability to “keep something in mind”, also often translated as “remembrance”. If you keep your breath in mind for example, you are mindful of the breath. The quality of mindfulness gives rise to inner peace and clear comprehension of reality. Having no mindfulness, our attention would be continuously scattered and there would be no ability to focus on anything whatsoever for even the shortest amount of time.
We all have mindfulness, dogs and cats have it, all beings have some mindfulness. What we cultivate on this path however is “right mindfulness”. It’s not just about washing dishes mindfully – it’s about understanding certain liberating principles and aspects of what we are doing. Having well trained mindfulness is at the base of all spiritual practice however. If we are unable to keep anything in mind for long enough, we are also unable to comprehend it thoroughly.
That’s why we work on our meditation practice and mindfulness throughout the day. We want to be able to sustain our mindfulness long enough for there to be a deep and truly life-altering breakthrough. Mindfulness has to become an automatically sustained quality for this to happen.
Mindfulness would be quite alone without clear comprehension. The facet of knowing something deeply has to accompany mindfulness. Just knowing that you are washing dishes is not sufficient for a deep spiritual transformation. Otherwise office workers who keep a certain task in mind for long periods of time would all have spiritual insights. We have to learn to look in very specific ways to comprehend what we are looking at thoroughly. That’s the function of “clear comprehension”.
Seeing into the true mechanics of our experiences right in this moment will give rise to wisdom. We will gradually comprehend all experiences in the light of the three characteristics and naturally let them go when true experience dawns. It’s the ability to look deeply into things that gives rise to liberating realizations. You don’t want to just look at stuff coming and going – that’s not it (even though it’s a very popular teachings these days). It’s about seeing clearly, with the eyes of wisdom.
It’s this very quality that directly gives rise to deep insight and knowing and thus it leads directly to inner peace and freedom from suffering. However, it has to come together with honesty, kindness and mindfulness to work at it’s best.
These days, the biggest obstacle is probably the lack of honesty. Fast internet browsing and a universe full of distraction conditions short attention spans and confused “chasy” minds. Being continuously lost in some activity, we have no time anymore to take an honest look at ourselves. And even spiritual practice very often becomes simply another garment that we wear to get more “likes” and “followers”.
It is only a handful people who are genuine enough to face their own bullshit. It’s a very tough thing to do, probably by far more difficult than constructing a spaceship and shooting people into an orbit. The habit of avoiding – not seeing oneself clearly in a sustained way – is simply a manifestation of dishonesty. Instead of cleaning up our own act from the inside out, we prefer to criticize and adjust the universe around ourselves endlessly. As long as the apparent outside is a priority, honesty has no footing.
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Tobi has been studying and practicing meditation since 2002. He stayed 7 years in a Tibetan Buddhist Temple and currently lives in Thailand where he founded the Dharana Meditation and Retreat Center in Phuket with his wife Parn. In Thailand he continued his practice and found a spiritual home within local Theravada Buddhism. Tobi is known for an open and relaxed teaching style focusing mainly on a practical application of mindfulness meditation within a modern society. The direct experience of what the practical teachings point to is of foremost importance to him.